A federal judge on Friday enacted a stay on the Food and Drug Administration's two-decades old approval of the abortion pill mifepristone.
Texas District Court Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk, appointed by former President Donald Trump, issued an order that would halt prescribing and distribution of the drug within a week. The drug has been on the market in the U.S. for 20 years.
The judge gave the government seven days to appeal and ask for emergency relief before the ruling goes into effect.
An anti-abortion rights group had requested the preliminary injunction so that mifepristone would be taken off the market while the case is heard.
The group sued the federal government, claiming the FDA rushed the drug’s approval more than two decades ago. The group claims that the drug puts a patient's health at risk.
The federal judge heard arguments in the lawsuit on March 15.
The Justice Department defended the FDA's decision-making process saying the agency followed all laws when approving the drug in 2000.
Democratic lawmakers released statements soon after the ruling was released condemning the decision.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer called the ruling "another massive step towards Republicans' goal of a nationwide abortion ban."
He said he believed the ruling could potentially "throw the country into chaos."
Sen. Gary Peters of Michigan called the ruling "dangerous and cruel," and reiterated the medical opinion of experts who say the method is a "safe, widely-used form of reproductive health care."
Sen. Jacky Rosen of Nevada said the ruling "sets a reckless precedent for a court to overrule an FDA decision based on science."
Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts called it a "lawless ruling." Hakeem Jeffries called the Texas judge "rogue, reckless and extreme right-wing."
Nancy Pelosicalled the effort to block the drug a "cruel, tyrannical quest."
Mifepristone is typically prescribed with another medicine called misoprostol. The drugs are approved to end a pregnancy through 10 weeks of gestation. According to the Guttmacher Institute, medication abortions account for more than half of all abortions in the U.S.
Many abortion providers say they would still prescribe misoprostol if access to mifepristone was blocked. The National Institutes of Health says misoprostol alone is still “effective and safe and is a reasonable option for women seeking abortion in the first trimester.”
This lawsuit is being heard at a time when abortion rights are being rolled back across the United States. Following the Supreme Court's decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, numerous Republican-led states have restricted access to abortions.
The DNC's Chair Jaime Harrison, said in a statement, "Leading medical organizations, including the American Medical Association and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, have deemed this medication, which has been available for decades, safe and effective."
The statement said, "These decisions should be made between a woman and her doctor and guided by science, not conservative officials with an extreme partisan agenda."
The Biden administration has said it plans to appeal the ruling.
On Tuesday, Washington state Gov. Jay Inslee announced officials purchased a three-year supply of mifepristone to ensure patients in the state could continue to have access to the drug.
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